Monday, December 19, 2016

“The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor - spending and being spent - to enrich others, giving time, trouble, care and concern to do good to others - and not just their own friends - in whatever way there seems need.” ― J.I. Packer

     Jean Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, wrote a very famous play titled, “No Exit” where he describes Hell as a nice drawing room in a nice house but its guests discover quickly that Hell doesn’t need lakes of fire or demons with pitchforks, no, they discover that Hell is other people.  Now, while I don’t necessarily agree with him, I can certainly think of just two or three people that would make my eternity hell were I to have to be in close contact with them forever.  Of course, if Sartre is right it would also make the case that heaven is also other people.  Of all the near-death experiences reported, none have conjured up a heaven where they are alone.  There are always loved ones or new friends that fill them with joy.  In my heaven, I would be greeted by every dog I’ve ever had just for starters.  The number of people I would want to spend my eternity with number in the thousands and I’m counting on God to be powerful enough to allow me to have limitless dinner parties with people like Tom Hanks and Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Fred Rogers.  My sister writes a daily blog and in almost every one, she talks about the good times she had that day or the day before with friends and family.  My favorite holiday was never Christmas, it was always Thanksgiving because it meant time with family and good food.  Did I mention I cannot envision a heaven without pizza and chocolate chip cookies?  I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that the happiest moments of my life have always come in the company of others.  There have been some big moments when I stood alone on the summit of a mountain or enjoyed a leisurely boat ride around Lake Geneva by myself but I always wanted my wife, Karen to be with me, because no great moment I have ever experienced wouldn’t have been made greater by being with her.  And no great sorrow wouldn't have been softened to have had her by my side.  That’s the way life is.  That’s what Christ knew, lived, and preached about.  It is how we treat and serve and enjoy the company of others that makes this life wonderful and I think prepares us for heaven to come.  Can you possibly imagine the joy of having Christ greeting you with open arms wanting to embrace you and welcome you into His eternal joy?  Can you imagine an eternity that was devoid of all those you loved and who loved you?  I surely cannot.  This Christmas will remind you over and over again of how wonderful it is to be surrounded by those who love you and who love others the same way you do.  When you watch the traditional movies, and go to the parties, and worship as families, surely you will feel your heart strangely warmed because that’s the real meaning of Christmas.  Christ came to call us together, to make us the one great family of God, the family that would love others and strive to ease all the burdens of others.   That’s the great Silent Night that is coming.  And me, I know that my heaven will be full of dogs who love me and friends and family that want to be with me and I with them (and a little egg nog, too).  At least that’s how I see it.  That’s what warms the cockles of my heart.  I hope this Christmas can remind you of the eternal joy that is to come and how important other people are to your own happiness.  May God give you the wisdom and peace you need to realize the wonder and love that awaits you and can be had even now.

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